Venezuela: ‘Traditional Left’ prevails in United Socialist Party elections

The so-called ‘traditional' or moderate leftwing prevailed in the elections for the provisional national executive of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez's new United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) on Sunday.

PSUV members lining up to vote (Rafael Navarro, ABN)

Caracas, March 10, 2008 ( – The so-called ‘traditional’ or moderate leftwing prevailed in the elections for the provisional national executive of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez’s new United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) on Sunday.

The party’s vice president, Alberto Müller Rojas, announced the results of the elections for the fifteen principle delegates to the national executive and fifteen substitute delegates in a press conference on Sunday night, after 87.7% of the votes had been scrutinized.

While key figures associated with the rightwing of the ‘Chavista’ movement, such as Diosdado Cabello and Francisco Arias Cardenas failed to get elected to the national executive (Cabello made it on to the list of substitute delegates), the preferred candidates of the radical left, such as Fernando Soto Rojas, Vladimir Acosta and Lidice Navas, were also not elected.

Former Education Minister Aristóbulo Istúriz, currently a panelist on political talk show “Dando y Dando” on state-owned television station VTV, and previously of the Homeland for All Party (PPT), with a long history in the left and trade union movements, received the highest number of votes with 38,186.

He was followed by Adán Chávez, Mario Silva, Jorge Rodríguez, Antonia Muñoz, Carlos Escarrá, Noelí Pocaterra, Vanessa Davies, Cilia Flores, María León, Nicolás Maduro, Alí Rodríguez Araque, Héctor Rodríguez, Elías Jaua and Érika Farías, respectively.

The substitute delegates are María Cristina Iglesias, Diosdado Cabello, Héctor Navarro, Freddy Bernal, Luis Reyes Reyes, Jacqueline Faría, Rafael Ramírez, William Lara, Ramón Rodríguez Chacín, Rodrigo Cabezas, Ana Elisa Osorio, Darío Vivas, Yelitza Santaella, Tarek El Aissami and Alberto Müller Rojas.

Among the fifteen principle delegates are six women, an indigenous leader, a student activist and three political commentators. Six are former members of Chavez’s old party, the Movement for a Fifth Republic (MVR), three are former members of the PPT and one is a former member of the Venezuelan Communist Party (PCV).

While all of the principle delegates of the national executive are civilians, four of the substitute delegates come from a military background.

Carlos Luis Rivero, an activist with the Assembly of Socialists, a left current within the PSUV, pointed out that the more radical left candidates are well known in their local areas, but they do not have a high profile on a national level, which impacted on their overall vote.

He also argued that although “the results show a rejection of the most well known members of the ‘endogenous rightwing'” this does not necessarily signify the defeat of this current.

Venezuela Bolivarian Constitution, passed by popular vote in 1999, requires all registered political parties to hold internal elections. The PSUV is the only party so far to comply with this requirement.

“The fact that a party has elected and has been formed from the grassroots is an original process here in Venezuela. For the first time, a political organization has not been formed by a small group or a small elite of leaders,.” Müller declared.

Müller argued that the PSUV will be “a party of the multitudes, with three fundamental tasks: to diffuse socialist ideas, form political cadres for the party and for a government directed by the party, and to mobilize society,” in the struggle for socialism.

Of the original 5.7 million people who registered as “aspiring members” of the PSUV in April last year, those eligible to vote in the elections included the elected spokespeople of each of the 14, 363 grassroots ‘battalions’, as well as the substitute spokespeople, and the heads of the five commissions (communication, political/ideological formation, logistics, territorial defense and social work) of each battalion, totaling some 100, 541 militants of the new party.

91% of those eligible participated in the elections, which were run by the National Electoral Council on Sunday.

Despite the high level of participation in the elections, an open letter to Chavez circulated earlier in the week, was signed by between 30-40% of the founding congress delegates who criticized the methodology and decision making process within the congress.

The letter argued for the “necessity of carrying out a profound revision of the internal processes that have occurred during the unfolding of the founding congress, which we feel has weakened democratic participation, transparency, internal unity, the confidence of the active membership and image of the party.”

Specifically, the letter criticized the process of selecting the 69 candidates for the election of the national executive, saying it lacked transparency and that “comrades emblematic of the revolutionary process” had been excluded. Although the 69 candidates were selected through a nomination process, the letter pointed out that the results of this nomination process were unknown and Chavez vetted the final list of eligible candidates.

The letter also questioned the response of some delegates in the founding congress who shouted the slogan “lo que diga Chávez” (whatever Chavez says) saying it aimed to silence dissenting voices and “suffocate debate.”

In response to an article in El Universal, which classified the naming of Müller as vice president as an “imposition” by President Chavez, the retired general called this is a “fallacy” and emphasized that in the structure of the PSUV, the highest decision making authority is the general assembly of the party.

“It is well known that the president proposed to the assembly the designation of various vice-presidents and among those he named me as first vice president and this was approved unanimously by the assembly of the party,” Müller clarified.

Müller also explained that the newly elected national leadership is provisional and that the entire membership of the party would be eligible to vote in the next round of leadership elections in a year.